I remember my first taste of the addiction. It started when I took PE in summer school when I was sixteen years old and we had to run cross country every week. I’d see all the cool athletes hanging out on the bleachers after they’d finished, watching as all of us pathetic slugs tried to keep up. I knew I couldn’t run like them so why try. Then I met another girl in my class and together we pushed each other to keep running, no breaks, and before I knew it, we were finishing alongside the athletes. They still looked cool and I looked like an over cooked tomato but from that moment on running was in my blood.
The problem was I kept it simmering under the surface for the next fifteen years, only letting it boil over every so often before putting the lid back on it. I never thought I could be one of those people who got up early to run, curbed their drinking on certain nights so they could run a race the following day or spend hours mentally and physically preparing to run a marathon. Yet, here I am, a dry-fit wearing, Runner’s World reading, Ibuprofen taking, marathon training runner. How did I get here?
I’ve been running 10Ks and even ran a half-marathon over the past six months but was still reluctant to take it seriously. I felt like a novice and wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to the runner’s life. I was definitely fascinated by this new world and when my friends brought along all the gear you need for a long race (chafing sticks, gel packs, specialty socks, GPS watches) I watched in awe, trying out each item like a kid in a candy shop.
I had gone as far as joining a local running group, Santa Monica Running Club, but had never actually gone to any of their weekly runs. They’d always schedule 5 a.m. morning runs and that’s just crazy talk. Then, out of the blue they scheduled a Friday morning run at a more respectable 7 a.m. I decided to go along that morning and everything quickly snowballed from there.
I met my new friend, Margot, at that morning run who told me about some training sessions on Monday nights at the Santa Monica High School track, which led to Wednesday evening runs hosted at Top to Top, which finally led me to the center of this very social world of running that I never knew existed.
What I’ve discovered about this new world is this: it’s really just a big party. The weekly runs are like happy hour with your friends and the races are like the big night out on the weekends. Afterwards, you still hurt in parts of your body that you didn’t know existed, but it’s a badge of honor instead of a badge of shame. You even receive a bag full of party favors after every race.
Now that my feet are rolling, there is no stopping them. Unlike my previous half-marathon, where I just showed up and prayed my legs wouldn’t fall off by the end, I am actually training regularly for my next half-marathon. It is not only going to be a party, it’s going to be in the biggest party city of them all, Vegas, baby, Vegas!
And, the races just keep on coming. Locally, there’s the almost weekly 10Ks, then the 13.1 series, and yes, the LA Marathon, which has a brand new course from city to sea. If all goes to plan, it will be my first marathon.
If you do decide to join this social club called running, you may notice a smidgen of resentment from some of your friends. However, you’ll likely be surprised how many are actually inspired by you. Best of all, you may be inspired, too. My runner’s high has overflowed into all aspects of my life, motivating my work, my hobbies, and my socializing.
In the end, running is just one big fiesta that everyone’s invited to. So, jump on in! The pavements fine.